INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR--PAPER NO.674
The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), which is an affiliate of Al Qaeda, have both claimed responsibility for the murderous attacks through suicide bombers on Shia processions during the holy fasting period at Lahore on September 1, 2010, and Quetta on September 3,2010. The Shia procession in Lahore was a normal one with no political significance. The procession in Quetta was in observance of Al Quds Day on the last Friday of the fasting period. Al Quds is the name of the historic mosque in East Jerusalem, which is under Israeli control since 1967. Ever since Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, Muslims all over the world observe the last Friday of the fasting period as Al Quds Day to remind each other that Al Quds is still under the control of Israel.
2. The call for the observance of the last Friday of the fasting period as Al Quds Day was given by Ayatollah Khomeini in a message issued by him to all the Muslims of the world----Shias as well as Sunnis---in August 1979. He said in his message: " I invite Muslims all over the globe to consecrate the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan as Al-Quds Day and to proclaim the international solidarity of Muslims in support of the legitimate rights of the Muslim people of Palestine. For many years, I have been notifying the Muslims of the danger posed by the usurper Israel which today has intensified its savage attacks against the Palestinian brothers and sisters, and which, in the south of Lebanon in particular, is continually bombing Palestinian homes in the hope of crushing the Palestinian struggle. I ask all the Muslims of the world and the Muslim governments to join together to sever the hand of this usurper and its supporters. I call on all the Muslims of the world to select as Al-Quds Day the last Friday in the holy month of Ramadan - which is itself a determining period and can also be the determiner of the Palestinian people’s fate - and through a ceremony demonstrating the solidarity of Muslims world-wide, announce their support for the legitimate rights of the Muslim people. I ask God Almighty for the victory of the Muslims over the infidels."
3. Thirty-three people, mostly Shias, died in the explosions in Lahore and 55 in Quetta. Attacks on Shias are not unusual in Pakistan, but the attacks this year have been very virulent. In the past the Sunni extremists used to attack the Shias when they were highlighting their sectarian identity. On September 3, they attacked them even when they were highlighting their solidarity with all Muslims---Sunnis and Shias--- in renewing the pledge of the Islamic world not to rest till Al Quds was liberated from Israeli control.
4. Even though the TTP and the LEJ have projected the attacks on the processions as in reprisal for the murder of a Sunni cleric last year allegedly by the Shias, there is another angle to the anti-Shia attacks this year. The fasting period this year has coincided with the proclaimed end of the US military mission in Iraq. Sunni extremists have always held Iran and the Shias responsible for facilitating the US invasion and occupation of Iraq and accused them of collaborating with the US against Saddam Hussein.Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No 2 of Al Qaeda, had in the past accused Iran of stabbing the Ummah in the back by facilitating the US occupation of Iraq.
5. Al Qaeda, the TTP and the LEJ have a common objective in making Iran pay a price for its collaboration with the US in Iraq. In the Islamic world, anti-Shia feelings are the strongest in Pakistan. The loyalty of the Shias of Pakistan to Iran remains strong. In the past, the LEJ had attacked not only Shia targets, but also Iranian targets. It had killed Iranian diplomats and has allegedly been assisting the Jundullah, the Sunni organisation of Iranian Balochistan, which has been fighting against the Iranian regime.
6. The attacks on Shias observing Al Quds Day in Quetta were meant to punish not only the Shias of Pakistan, but also Iran. Generally, Iranian diplomats join Al Quds Day processions in different cities of Pakistan. One should not be surprised if there were some Iranian diplomats in the Quetta procession.
7. The international community has not taken note of the continuing siege of the Shias of the Kurram Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) by the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. The Shias call Kurram the Pakistani Gaza and have been repeatedly appealing to the international community to end the siege by the Taliban. They accuse the Pakistan Army and its Chief of the Army Staff, Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani of inaction while pretending to act against the two Talibans.
8. The mutual hostility of the Shias and Sunnis of Pakistan towards each other shows no signs of abating. On the contrary, it has been increasing as seen by recent anti-Shia attacks in Karachi, Lahore and Quetta. ( 4-9-10)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: email@example.com )